Talk Sweetly to Me (Brothers Sinister 4.5) by Courtney Milan

This novella is the final entry in the “Brothers Sinister” series, which makes me sad. It features…gasp…an interracial couple! Really! In 1882! Readers met Irishman Stephen Shaughnessy, also known as “An Actual Man,” in the previous book, The Suffragette Scandal (reviewed here). His romantic interest is Rose Sweetly, a brilliant mathematician who also happens to be of African descent.

Talk Sweetly to Me Front Cover

Talk Sweetly to Me Front Cover

THE PLOT: Rose is a lot more interested in Stephen, her neighbor, than she should be. First, she knows his reputation with women. Second, he’s always joking, and she’s got serious things on her mind, like the distance between planets and caring for her very-pregnant sister. Third, she believes her racial background pretty much prevents her from ever being more to him than a mistress. But Stephen will not be denied a chance with Rose. He manages to set up math lessons with her as his tutor. He buys her a telescope for a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. And at every step, he’s unselfish as can be. But Rose just can’t take the chance until a life-or-death situation proves whom she can trust most in the world.

MY TWO CENTS: How can you not love Rose? She’s a geek! She’s a genius! And, unfortunately, she’s forced to face the barriers of racism. (As I was reading Rose, I was picturing Freema Agyeman, who played another smart, geeky Brit who also happened to have dark skin.) And while I enjoyed Stephen, Rose was really the star of this story. She wrestles with her own feelings and the dictates of society, all while just wanting to be alone with her slide rule. (That is not a euphemism.) The moments where Rose shines the most are those she shares with her sister, Patricia, whose complicated pregnancy is even more endangered by the racist doctor who’s supposed to be caring for her. The first time the doctor referred to Patricia as “women like her,” I physically flinched. I’m so glad Rose gets to…oh, but wait, that would be a spoiler.

For those interested, no other Brothers Sinister characters show up. There is a mention of Free, but that’s all.

BOTTOM LINE: A really good novella, but I wish this story could have been a full-length novel. I feel like the story itself is stronger than the romance, which, granted, is not necessarily a bad thing. Stephen and Rose’s relationship could have developed so much more, and more gradually, over a longer novel.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups. Definitely worth checking out, even if you haven’t read the rest of the series, especially if you appreciate diversity in your reading.

ON SALE DATE: The novella is now available in e-formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister #4) by Courtney Milan

Alas, we come to the final full-length book in the “Brothers Sinister” series. The book’s original title was The Mistress Rebellion, and, according to the author note, it was going to have a completely different kind of male lead. I think everyone will agree that the author made excellent decisions with both the title change and the hero’s personality.

The Suffragette Scandal Front Cover

The Suffragette Scandal Front Cover

THE PLOT: Frederica “Free” Marshall is a suffragette in 1877 England. She runs a newspaper “written by women, for women, about women.” Edward Clark is a man with a tragic past. He’s been pretending to be dead for years after a family betrayal. Now he’s come back to England to stop his own younger brother, James, from persecuting Edward’s childhood friend, Stephen Shaugnessy. Only he finds out that James isn’t really after Stephen; he’s trying to bring down Stephen’s employer…Free.

Edward is really the rightful Viscount Claridge, but he has promised James that he’ll “stay dead” and let James be the viscount if he just stops the attacks on Stephen (and Free). But of course James won’t stop. In the meantime, Free is drawn to this man who is a self-proclaimed untrustworthy forger, but may be a whole lot more besides. How does Free stay safe without giving up her newspaper? How does Edward avoid claiming his rightful inheritance and becoming a peer? Will he ever confess to Free that he’s lied to her about his identity? How do they both stay the people they are without compromising for love?

MY TWO CENTS: I know this will come as a shock to my readers (sarcasm), but I loved this one. I may even have loved it a little more than The Heiress Effect (reviewed here), but I’m not sure. That’s a LOT of love.

Free is a fantastic character. She’s absolutely intelligent and firm in her beliefs throughout the book. She’s strong but not abrasive. It would have been easy to make an abrasive suffragette, but Milan deftly makes Free lovably assertive, not annoyingly aggressive. Edward is also a great character, and Free’s perfect match. Their first few scenes together are almost like a screwball comedy of one-upmanship (hint: Edward never wins). But the real key is that, by the end of the book, they know each other well enough to truly complete the other. It’s like magic.

I also have to mention yet another three-dimensional villain in James. He’s not your normal mustache-twirling “Mwha ha ha” villain. He’s really a weakling who convinces himself that he’s completely justified in all his actions, no matter how loathsome they are. Luckily, Edward has his number and knows just how to play him.

BOTTOM LINE: Another stellar offering from Courtney Milan, quite possibly the best in the whole series. How lucky for us readers that Free “demanded” her own book! And we still have Stephen Shaughnessy’s novella, Talk Sweetly to Me, to complete the series in August. My only fear is that her next series, the “Worth Saga,” won’t be as good…but maybe it will be even better.

TEACUP RATING: An easy 5+ teacups out of 5. Okay, maybe 6 out of 5, because the thimble speech really deserves a teacup all on its own. (Read the book. You’ll get it.)

ON SALE DATE: E-book formats are on sale now; audio will be released soon. I don’t see a print version listed on Amazon, but print versions are usually available at some point.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister #3) by Courtney Milan

The Countess Conspiracy (XX publishing)

The Countess Conspiracy Front Cover

I must be becoming a sloppy reader in my old age. First I completely missed, never remotely suspected, the secret of Chase in Sarah MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series. And now, I’ve completely missed any hints about Sebastian and Violet’s secret in Courtney Milan’s “Brothers Sinister” series. However, the author reveals that secret in the book description for The Countess Conspiracy, so I’m not going to treat it as a spoiler. You have been warned!

THE PLOT: At the end of The Heiress Effect, there was a scene where, after a presentation, Sebastian said rather nasty things to Violet in public. I wondered if they had started an affair in which Violet was being emotionally detached. As it turned out, it was almost nothing to do with romantic issues. The truth is: Sebastian’s scientific knowledge was never his, it was always Violet’s. But because Violet is a woman, no one will give her writing the time of day, let alone acknowledge her theories as plausible. So for years, Sebastian has been presenting her findings in his name instead. But now he’s had enough of putting on this show and being abused by an outraged public. He’s trying to prove he could be a responsible guardian to his dying brother’s son, so he tells Violet he’s out. Of course, there’s a lot more to his relationship with his brother than just his brother’s protests over the “inappropriate” presentations. At the same time, Violet has a very interesting relationship with HER mother and sister. When Violet’s father killed himself, her mother taught the girls to never even acknowledge anything that could become scandalous…including emotions. Then there’s the effects of what Violet’s first husband put her through.

MY TWO CENTS: These two old friends carry a LOT of baggage. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they love each other, but they have a lot to work through before they can become a couple. Here’s the thing, though: even though it’s a love story, it’s really a story about a woman claiming her identity in every way possible. This book takes place in a time period in which a woman’s “success” was judged by her ability to provide her husband with children. Violet is a highly intelligent woman, and she deserves credit for her work and discoveries. She is also a valid person in her own right without being a baby-making machine. I’m so, so glad that Courtney Milan created a couple where the epilogue wasn’t, “And then, against all odds, they had a baby.” What a rebel thought…that a couple really CAN reach that “happily ever after” without a child, if that’s what they choose.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s probably apparent by now that I love most of Ms. Milan’s work.  I also have great respect for the quality product she puts out without a big publisher’s backing. If you haven’t checked out her work, you should. But be warned: Courtney Milan is not about formulaic, cookie-cutter romance. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. (But you may also want to broaden your horizons. You can never read too much!)

TEACUP RATING: I award this one five teacups, with the caveat that I liked The Heiress Effect better. This is the equivalent of saying I like peanut butter cup pie a little better than French silk pie. They’re both utterly delectable; I just have a slight preference for one over the other!

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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